Engaging Your Teens

“Who is to blame for the inception of slavery, class?” asked my European teacher one day in class. “The Bible!” exclaimed one of the students. Much to my disbelief, the teacher cheerfully agreed: “Of course, it’s always the Bible.”

For months now I had been told by both my peers and teachers that Christians were to blame for the world’s environmental problems, delayed scientific achievements, wars, ignorance, and now social injustices. Although all of these negative connotations of Christianity had been implied throughout my years of public schooling, only in the past year did I realize that people were now explicitly blaming Christianity for the cause of all these problems.

In a society where educational institutions berate religion and encourage secularism, it is no wonder that 70% of Protestants stop attending church by age 23 (according to a study published in USA Today). The answer to preserving our Christian belief lies in the youth and, as a parent, you have the most significant role in your teen’s life. Here’s how you can help:

Let your godly teen play the devil’s advocate
The adolescent mind is flexible, curious and, historically speaking, rebellious. If your teen begins to play the devil’s advocate by questioning Christianity, do not be afraid. He or she is merely trying to assimilate their newfound worldly knowledge with their long held Christian beliefs. If they do not ask questions or cannot find answers that satisfy their questions, how are they supposed to continue believing something that they find irrational or unbelievable?

In order to help your child understand and learn about Christianity, try to not be defensive or get upset, but instead gently enlighten your child on why you believe what you do. Point out any myths and misconceptions, use the Bible as evidence, and teach your child about the validity of the Bible while pursuing answers to the questions you don’t know how to answer. While ignorance is said to be bliss, knowledge is power.

Need help getting started?
Download iTunes U from the App Store. iTunes U is an application for Apple products that serves as an online catalog for free lectures from leading colleges and universities. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Baylor University, and Biola University are some of the many universities featured on this application. Liberty University even has a whole semester available that is devoted apologetics.

Teach your adolescent how to prioritize
High-achieving teens today are busy. They have soccer practices, football games, piano lessons, SAT/ACT tutoring sessions, dinner dates and piles of homework, just to name a few. However, teaching your teen that God comes first, no matter what, is the secret to instilling timeless values into them. This includes restricting them from working on Sundays, not allowing them to skip months of church services for sports games, and expecting them to be ready for Sunday church service even after a sleepover with friends. By allowing them to miss church for sports, friends and work regularly, you indirectly teach them that God is secondary in their lives.

Read the Bible as a family
Your adolescent is about to enter college. Professors will berate them for their beliefs, charge Christianity as being irrational and misconstrue words in the Bible to support their opinions. In fact, many high school teachers are already beginning this process. Science teachers may scoff at Creationism and blame Christians for environmental problems such as overpopulation. History teachers may criticize Christianity for the Salem Witch Trials, Scopes Monkey Trial, Holy Wars and the Reconquista. However, the only way for students to effectively fend off false statements and harsh criticisms, is if they know the Bible inside and out so that they can think for themselves.

Need help getting started?
• Read the Bible every day as a family. Alternate who reads so that everyone participates.

• Make sure that you and your family actually understand what is being read. Hold a discussion afterwards and find practical applications to incorporate what was learned into your daily lives.

• Let these sessions be a time to spend together as a family as well. Talk about each family member’s day. Ask engaging questions and encourage your kids to think critically.

• There is no shortage of guides on how to read the Bible. Some helpful books include How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now by James. L Kugel and How to Read the Bible Through Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture by Michael Williams.

Talk the talk and walk the walk
There are a great number of books devoted to the subjects of raising children and training teens to have Christian values. However, no guides, pamphlets or any number of tricks will make a difference unless you, as the parent, make God your priority. Above all else, the way you live your life is a model for your children.

There is not a single doubt in my mind that, had my parents not disciplined me to go to church every Sunday, played a pivotal role in the church community, read the Bible to me from cover to cover, defended their faith despite my former doubts and challenges and presented biblical and historical evidence to back up every one of their claims, I would not be writing this article now. Your actions and lifestyle may dictate whether or not your children stray from their Christian beliefs like the 70% of young adults who have already done so.

This leaves us with the best advice on parenting ever given: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Cresonia is a high school senior. She can be reached at [email protected].

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